DISPATCH: How Budget Politics Are Shifting, Wins for Domestic Workers, Big Government Conservatism, and More

Stateside Dispatch
Friday, May 17, 2013

Welcome to the Stateside Dispatch, Progressive States Network's roundup of the latest state policy news. Here's what happened in the states this week:

Budget Politics Shift as Federal Deficit Recedes, State Surpluses Appear

This week saw the case for budget austerity at both the state and federal levels continue to rapidly fall apart. A new Congressional Budget Office report showed that the federal budget deficit problem may not actually be that much of a problem anymore, and debates over what to do with budget surpluses began to percolate in the states as treasuries started to count tax revenues that came in last month, even as the pain from sequestration cuts also continued to be felt in all fifty states:

The Congressional Budget Office report released this week projects that the federal budget deficit will shrink "far faster than anyone in Washington expected, and perhaps even faster than many economists think is advisable for the health of the economy." [New York Times]

That would mean "the debt disaster that has obsessed the political class for the last three years is pretty much solved, at least for the next 10 years or so." [Washington Post]

A look at how austerity policies literally kill: "rates of [excess] suicides were significantly greater in the states that experienced the greatest job losses." [New York Times]

How the obsession with the federal deficit has led to austerity measures that are preventing the unemployment rate from dropping to 6.1%. [New York Times]

In California, the debate is now over what to do with a budget surplus of about $4.5 billion thanks to additional revenue brought in by the economic recovery and new tax rates approved by voters last year. [Huffington Post]

The debate is dividing legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown, who would prefer to continue to hold back on reinvesting in state programs that had previously been cut. [Sacramento Bee]

Ohio is also about to enter a debate over what to do with a surplus. [Columbus Dispatch]

Op-ed: Why Wisconsin should use their surplus to help low-income residents. [Wisconsin State Journal]

Why a revenue uptick is not necessarily a sustainable surplus. [Citizens for Tax Justice]

Meanwhile, the federal cuts in sequestration continue to hit people relying on unemployment benefits, this time in Alaska. [Juneau Empire]

Thousands of low-income families seeking housing in Connecticut also continue to feel the pain from sequestration. [WTNH]

As do senior citizens in eastern Texas who rely on Meals on Wheels. [News-Journal]

Lawmakers: Sign up to join PSN's Working Group of State Legislators for Tax Fairness for the latest information on progressive tax and budget policies.

More Progress for Domestic Workers' Rights

Minnesota joined Oregon and Hawaii as states that have advanced legislation this session to protect the rights of domestic workers, a sign of progress for efforts to protect workers who often earn less than the minimum wage and face exploitation and abuse:

A Senate committee in Oregon held a hearing this week on a bill that has already passed the house to grant workplace protections to 10,000 domestic workers. [The Oregonian]

“It’s considered invisible, it’s not real work... and it’s women’s work." -- Myrla Baldonado, a domestic worker and organizer pushing for similar legislation in Illinois. [The World]

“Our feeling is that if six or seven states pass domestic workers’ legislation like this, we can be successful at the federal level." -- Hawaii State Rep. Roy Takumi, following passage of a domestic workers' bill of rights in his state this session. [RH Reality Check]

"Takumi decided to work on a Hawaii domestic workers’ bill of rights four years ago, after hearing National Domestic Workers’ Alliance director Ai-jen Poo speak at a Progressive States Network conference." [RH Reality Check] 

A bill in Minnesota to allow for the unionization of child care and personal care workers received approval by the state Senate this week. [Pioneer Press]

The Minnesota legislation now heads to the House, where a vote could come in a matter of days. [Minnesota Public Radio]

Conservatives Fight to Take Away Local Control

The plain hypocrisy of "small-government" conservatives backing state efforts to preempt local communities from passing their own wage and benefits standards continues to gain attention, even as more local efforts to pass paid sick days and living wage laws advance. But, as reports this week showed, corporate-backed state legislative intrusions into local communities have not been limited to attacking wage and benefits standards -- they have also extended to blocking local environmental regulations and redrawing district lines for local offices:

A look at how conservatives in state legislatures in Florida, Michigan, and elsewhere have tried to pre-empt local governments from enacting paid sick days laws. [Stateline]

Another take on how conservatives in statehouses are attempting to take decision making powers away from local communities on paid sick days as well as a host of other issues. [Alternet]

Florida Gov. Rick Scott must now decide whether to sign or veto the preemption bill that passed the legislature. [PR Watch]

A paid sick days bill was introduced in New Jersey this week to provide employees with at least one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked. [The Record]

Family Values @ Work Executive Director and Progressive States Network board member Ellen Bravo recaps the successful campaign for a paid sick days law in Portland, Oregon. [In These Times]

In Georgia and North Carolina, those efforts by conservatives have included blocking stricter local environmental regulations and redrawing district lines for local elected offices. [AP]

Legislators: Sign up to join PSN's Economic Security Working Group for resources to help you fight back against the corporate, anti-worker agenda. 

Update: The States and Medicaid Expansion

A quick update on where the debate over Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act stands in some of the states still debating what should be a "no-brainer":

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Colorado's Medicaid expansion into law, insuring an additional 160,000 adults. [AP]

After dueling rallies outside the Capitol, the Arizona Senate began debating Gov. Brewer's proposal to expand Medicaid. [Arizona Republic]

Hundreds of supporters rallied demanding a vote on Medicaid expansion in Nebraska. [Lincoln Journal Star]

Iowa may need a special session to work out the dispute over Medicaid expansion. [The Gazette]

An aide to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said even if an agreement were reached, Medicaid expansion would not take effect until 2015. [The Patriot-News]

Florida's legislature's decision to reject Medicaid expansion is "bad for business," according to business leaders. [Health News Florida]

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe says he has "had numerous calls from Republican and Democratic governors from other states" wanting to know about Arkansas' proposal to use federal Medicaid dollars to subsidize private insurance coverage. [Arkansas News]

But over in South Carolina, there have been "no real attempts for the state to work with the federal government at all." [AP]

Sign up for the next PSN health care webinar on Monday, June 10th at 4pm ET to learn what you need to know about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as 2014 approaches.

(The webinar series is designed for legislators and legislative staff and supported by The Commonwealth Fund, a national, private foundation based in New York City that supports independent research on health care issues and makes grants to improve health care practice and policy.)

Also this week:

Protests continued against the conservative agenda in North Carolina, with 49 arrests taking place this past Monday. [News and Observer]

A look at some of the conservative priorities debated in North Carolina this week, including an anti-Sharia law bill. [AP]

Missouri lawmakers approved an anti-union bill despite significant bipartisan opposition, and sent it to Gov. Jay Nixon, who is expected to veto it. [St. Louis Public Radio]

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton reached a deal with legislative leaders that calls for a tax increase on high earners. [Star Tribune]

Why North Carolina should reinstate its Earned Income Tax Credit. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

At least five states are working to limit access to emergency contraception. [Think Progress]

Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, and Maryland are among the states that have approved driver's licenses for immigrants. [New York Times]

The TRUST Act passed a key legislative committee vote in Connecticut. [CT News Junkie]

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he is looking into allegations of wage theft by fast-food companies. [New York Times]

The Nation: "In 2010, New York passed a statewide anti–wage theft law that Progressive States Network described as the strongest in the country." [The Nation]

Indiana is "postponing" implementation of Common Core education standards immediately to allow more discussion on the effects of the initiative. [Washington Post]

Marriage equality: an example of why, "if you want to see how political progress is made, look to the local level." [Yes! Magazine]

The latest roundup of voting rights and anti-voting rights bills introduced and passed in 2013. [Brennan Center]

A roundup of the 2013 Vermont legislative session, "marked by fiscal caution and an adventurous approach to social issues." [AP]

A roundup of the 2013 Florida legislative session, which ended last week "in a burst of bipartisanship." [Miami Herald]

And, it's official: all 50 states have now endorsed a pro-beer agenda. [Stateline]

Follow @PSNwire on Twitter for the latest state policy news as it happens.

Map of the Week

Map: Economic Mobility of the States, 2012

Maryland, New Jersey, and New York state lead the way on this updated interactive measure of state-by-state economic mobility for residents by Pew Center on the States -- while southern states, many with legislatures controlled by conservatives, have seen "lower upward and higher downward mobility compared to the national average." View the full interactive here.

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Research Roundup

Wasted Wealth: How the Wall Street Crash Continues to Stall Economic Recovery and Deepen Racial Inequity in America [Alliance for Just Society, Home Defender's League, The New Bottom Line]
This report examines the continuing devastating impact of the foreclosure crisis and "documents how principal reduction -- reducing mortgages to fair market value for underwater homeowners -- is the fair policy our country needs. It’s impact could have far-reaching effects: from saving homeowners thousands of dollars a year, to creating 1.5 million jobs to being the needed boost our economy needs." It includes local reports on a number of cities.

New York's Hidden Crime Wave: Wage Theft and NYC's Fast Food Workers [Fast Food Forward]
"In a survey of 500 New York City fast food workers conducted in April 2013 by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, 84 percent of workers surveyed responded that their employer had committed at least one form of wage theft in the past year. Two-thirds of workers surveyed reported that their employer had perpetrated two forms of wage theft and nearly half reported their employer had committed at least three kinds of wage theft."

Scorecard: Essential Disclosure Requirements for Independent Spending, 2013 [National Institute on Money in State Politics]
"Just how much money is spent independently on elections for state office? The answer remains elusive in the majority of states, according to the Institute's latest analysis of disclosure requirements for independent spending. The analysis found that 15 states require full disclosure of both forms of independent spending: express advocacy and electioneering communications. Unfortunately, 26 states continue to fail to ensure meaningful disclosure of this spending."

Sequestration Nation: Cutting Impact Aid Funding Harms Our Nation’s Schoolchildren [Center for American Progress]
"Each week in our 'Sequestration Nation' series, we will highlight examples of the many ways in which the federal budget cuts may hurt you and your neighbors. This week we explore sequestration’s effect on schoolchildren from military households and Native American reservations."

Infographic: Online Lookup Tools For Voters 2012 [Pew Charitable Trusts]
"How do voters find the information they need on and before Election Day? Many voters turn to online resources, such as state election websites, to find polling locations, absentee ballot and provisional ballot information before casting their vote. This report outlines which online election tools are made available for voters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Which tools does your state offer?"

Email us at with research roundup suggestions.

Quote of the Week

“There is no shame, in fact there’s pride, in fighting to restore cuts to those who have suffered the most during the budget crisis -- the poor, the elderly and the disabled.”

- California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on what the state should do with higher-than expected revenue thanks to an improving economy and the tax increase approved by voters last fall.


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